McDonald’s, the company that put “fast food” on the map 57 years ago, now wants to become the place to linger, relax and slowly enjoy time.
A massive undertaking is renovating nearly all of the company’s 13,000 U.S. locations, at a rate of 1000 a year. It’s anticipated that 75 percent of them will be completed by the end of 2015.
The finished units are comfortable, bright, colorful, open, inviting and – perhaps most important of all – modern. “In 1955, McDonald’s was America’s most modern and innovative brand,” says Francesco Cordua, director of U.S. retail experience. “True to our roots, we’re driving a reimaging effort that will return us to those original parameters.”
While over the years it has added such interior elements as children’s play areas and flatscreen TVs, Cordua says McDonald’s is still often seen as a place to order quickly, grab the tray and rush through
The new idea, he says, is to enhance the experience after diners have ordered their meals. “We want diners – whether families with children or businesspeople having an informal meeting – to feel they can come in, take a break, have a conversation, watch TV or use our WiFi connection,” he says. “We want them to enjoy being there.”
So inside these new environments, materials are richer, colors lighter and lighting warmer. The dining area is divided into zones, and the seating varies from booths and square four-top tables to longer community tables with bar stools. Decorative, modern light pendants hang from the ceiling. Colorful patterns of paper and graffiti-like graphics fill the walls. And wooden sculptural elements serve as informal architectural dividers between the various zones.
In the booths, upholstery replaces the familiar fiberglass. Tabletops have also been upgraded to laminates or solid surface materials (like Corian). At the tables, chairs have been unhinged from the floor so they can be moved around and rearranged
The upgrades produce a warmer, more upscale, almost residential look and feel. But Cordua emphasizes that this is not an attempt to recreate people’s living rooms. “We want the overall experience to be as comfortable and inviting as guests’ homes,” he says, “but ultimately we want to tap into what people enjoy about going out to dinner.”
On the outside, the red mansard roof has been replaced with a flat top and the familiar golden arch is more stylized and less arch-like. The McDonald’s “M” is still visible on a white wall with yellow trim and a lot of windows.